I studied at Bath Spa university in the UK. They had a really nice balance of teaching essential digital skills but they also encouraged us to learn printing skills like letterpress, screen printing and lithography. It's something thats stuck with me and still encourages me to get away from the screen and enjoy other mediums.
My first jobs out of uni were mostly editorial. Local and national magazines along with some small scale advertising. No huge names or big budgets but each new project was a learning experience and gave me more and more confidence.
Typically I get to my studio in west Tokyo around 10am. I’ll usually have coffee, answer emails and upload some work to Instagram straight away and then figure out what needs to be done for the rest of the day.
Usually I’ll be working on a few projects at the same time, all at different stages of completion, so I just split my time between them.
On a normal day I’ll finish around 3 or 4 and then do a little work on some personal projects or for The Tokyoiter
I used to work much longer days and felt I couldn’t relax or enjoy down time unless I was ahead of schedule on a project but I soon realised that any work I did during this time wasn’t very good and I’d just end up re-doing parts the next day.
I feel like the balance I have now means that I dont burn out as much and am eager to get into the studio and continue working on things.
There are loads of events, exhibitions and meet-ups going on all over the city. I’d recommend the following for keeping up to date with what's going on in Tokyo:
Spoon & Tamago - A Japan focused blog featuring all aspects of design, architecture, fine art and other events
Tokyo Art Beat - an always up to date directory of current and upcoming creative events and exhibitions
Canvas - A Facebook for Tokyo creatives. Open only to local creatives but anyone can see who is active in Tokyo and check out the discussion boards and meet-ups that are going on
I also run a monthly illustration meetup that’s free and open to anyone that's interested. I upload the details on canvas.co.com as well as my Instagram/ Twitter. If you’re ever in the city during this time then please feel free to pop by!
“Whatever you put out there is what you’ll get back”
My tutor told me this in my final year as I was preparing my portfolio to show clients. It’s pretty obvious advice looking back but I never really thought about presenting my work in those terms.
If you have a portfolio full of cat drawings, you will only get clients asking you to draw cats. (Please don't ask me to draw cats)
When I left uni I was fascinated with maps and building up detail to create huge cityscapes. I quickly got requests for maps in editorial, advertising and even fashion. But as time went on my interests changed and I slowly redirected my portfolio to reflect this. As an illustrator, we’re lucky that we can constantly keep our interests involved in our work. If we are unhappy about the direction things are going, we can change. It’s a huge advantage that perhaps not many other professions have and it helps us stay constantly involved and excited by our work.
For me, it came from sketchbooks and side projects.
Client work helped me become more professional in terms of delivering work on time and learning new skills in order to make everything look more presentable but it was the work that I was making in my own time that developed my style.
I realised how I liked to work, what I liked to draw and the colours I liked using from creating work away from deadlines and feedback.
I would then feed this back into my client work wherever possible.
There’s been a big learning experience over the years! From doing work for free for a huge electronic company to seeing my work altered and changed for a book cover (and hating it)
Here are some of the things I learnt though. Hope they’re useful to others:
1. Doing work for free or being promised exposure - learnt to say no
2. Not liking the final outcome - learnt to take a bit more control, turn down some feedback suggestions (without being rude) or ask clients for any templates they will use. They’re usually pretty flexible if you ask nicely.
3. Taking on too much work - learnt to not be afraid to turn work down. Clients usually understand if you’re busy and they’ll usually come back eventually!
4. Struggling to meet deadlines - Learnt to look at a calendar more when agreeing dates. Also, always say no to Monday deadlines! They’ll get their weekend, you should get yours!